What do you want from your pharmacy? Time to have your say

Most of us probably take our local pharmacy for granted.  Pharmacists tend to be friendly and helpful.  It’s the place we go to get our scripts filled and to get advice about common health issues. And there’s a pharmacy in every suburb and town if not more, isn’t there?

So why would you want to respond to a Health Department survey about what your local pharmacy offers?

The Department of Health has issued the survey as part of the Review into Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation and you can see it at: http://www.health.gov.au/pharmacyreview#Questionnaire

The review survey is aimed at getting the views of consumers and pharmacists on what we want from our pharmacies now and into the future.

Everybody with an interest in community health, particularly consumers, should do the survey. We can be sure that pharmacists, as a highly organised group, will make their points strongly.

Consumers need to ensure their voice is heard strongly too. Because your local pharmacy is an important part of the health landscape and it’s not often we stop and think about how community pharmacy is paid, the services they can or could offer, and how government policy shapes community pharmacy.

The role of pharmacies in our community is changing and expanding into areas like immunisation and routine blood pressure checks. And of course advising on the increasing challenges of modern multiple medications many people are prescribed, particularly as they age.

Pharmacies have a pivotal role in community health and determining their role now and in the future on questions such as offering services  traditionally done by local GPs, is vital.

But also growing is the cost to the community and the taxpayer.  Pharmacy owners will receive a total of  $18.8 billion from taxpayers and consumers for prescribed medicines over the five years to 2020, as well as the many billions consumers pay in co-payments and for over the counter medicines.

The survey seeks your responses on issues including the services pharmacists offer, co-payments and discounts for prescription medicines, opening hours, what products they should sell and their location.

The Consumers Health Forum have taken a keen interest in pharmacy activities over the years, particularly because of their potentially expanded role in community health services and our interest in ensuring we get the bests result for consumers.

A survey we did last year showed that a clear majority of those who responded wanted to see closer collaboration between pharmacists and local GPs, to strengthen advice on medication particularly for those with chronic illness.

Among other important issues that this current government survey explores is the issue of location and competition between pharmacies and opening hours --- the latter an important consideration especially given issues that matter to the community such as the  scarcity of late—opening pharmacies in most places, for example.

The survey also goes to the dilemma created by the presence of complementary medicines in pharmacies.

Many of these complementary medicines are unproven and their sale in a pharmacy, whose main function is to dispense evidence-based pharmaceuticals, raises questions about the ethics of marketing unproven pills and other products.

The review panel has already released a discussion paper on its review and it emphasises that it is “primarily a consumer focused review that aims to identify which services and programs consumers value from community pharmacy”.  See the discussion paper here.

The Review’s public consultations will culminate with a live national webcast, to be broadcast from Canberra on 7 September 2016 at 7:00pm AEST.

The webcast will provide an opportunity for stakeholders and consumers to join the national conversation and express their views regarding the future of pharmacy to the Review Panel through live and interactive online platforms and social media.

The survey and webcast are rare opportunities for you the consumer to have your say to a national investigation that’s keen to hear from you.

Please log on and have your say. 

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About the author

Leanne Wells

Leanne Wells

Chief Executive of the Consumers Health Forum of Australia